Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Kitchen Reader: Blessed Are the Cheesemakers

I was delighted to have been asked to make our July Kitchen Reader selection.  For our second-ever fiction installment, I chose Blessed Are the Cheesemakers by Sarah-Kate Lynch.

Imagine a place were you can go when life screws you over - or you screw your life over - where the hills are rolling green (and would probably block your cell signal), and the only entertainment to speak of is the Sound of Music sing-a-long staged daily by the Pregnasaurs (pregnant, vegetarian milkmaids) for the benefit of the milking cows.

Welcome to Coolarney!

Blessed Are the Cheesemakers follows the story of the two aging cheesemakers of Coolarney (who are preparing to pass the torch), Abbey (Cheesemaker Corrie's granddaughter who is running away from a crumbling marriage), and Kit (a fallen-from grace stockbroker running away from a string of bad decisions). 

Themes of longing and belonging run through the story like the veins of a perfect blue cheese.  Like the well-balanced cheeses made at Coolarney, Lynch pairs strong emotions with just enough non-fictitious information about the cheesemaking process to make the story believable and keep it from becoming overly sweet. 

On a more personal level, I was pleasantly surprised with part of the storyline that brought in one character's desire for a baby, the Pregoasaurs' unwanted pregnancies, and the inevitable discussion of adoption.  The competing emotions were handled authentically and gently.

In short, I loved it!

If your appetite is whet, and you want a nibble, Lynch offers an excerpt on her website.  And if you've read Blessed are the Cheesemakers and want more, I also loved House of Daughters (which follows the intersecting paths of three flawed and warring sisters who inherit their father's Champagne vineyard).

Disclosure: this post contains some affiliate links.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Independence {Mindful Mothering Mondays}

So many of the blogs and books I read focus on being mindful with our children.  Enjoying the good moments and the crazy ones, too, for the gifts that they are.  Being present, rather than just being in the room with our little ones.

Today, though, I'm working through the realization that I may have been giving Moose too much mindfulness.  In case you missed it, he last few weeks together have been tough.  Really tough

I can't chop vegetables for dinner without screaming at my feet or destructive behavior in the adjacent room (which, the snide smile on Moose's face suggests, is designed solely to get my attention).  I've even been bitten on the rear!  I'm more behind than usual with some of my household tasks because every towel I fold gets unfolded; the window gets intentionally smeared the second I finish wiping it.  The words of the moment are "NO!" and "NOW!"

Some of that is age.  Arguably gender.  Definitely personality.  But here's the thing glaring me in the face: he doesn't act that way with anybody else.  Anybody.  Not his teacher at school.  Not Daddy Moose.  It's just me.

After roundtabling with mom friends, Daddy Moose, and even Moose's trusted and wonderful pediatrician (who happens to have two very spirited ones of her own), the general consensus seems to be that I need to back off.

Not ignore.  Not abandon.

But encourage independence.  (And encourage is the exact right word because Moose wants to be independent; if I had a dime for every time I heard the phrase "I do it myself!" . . . )  Which is what I wanted all along, but somewhere, along the way stifled without intending or even realizing.

I am entering somewhat uncharted waters.  On Friday, I explained that, after we did the singing and dancing Moose asked for, I needed to get some work done in the kitchen and that he could help or he could play.  On Saturday I sorted old baby clothes while Moose ran around upstairs with his toy shopping cart. 

In the absence of a model to follow (Do you have one to share?), I'm loosely following a 30 min/30 min schedule of time spent actively engaging together/independent time. 

It is hard work, not devoting all my attention to the Moose.  And exhausting.  But it's worth a try, and all I can do is cross my fingers and hope he and I both come out the other side better for it!

Joining Lydia again for Monday mothering inspiration!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Fitness Friday: Quickies

There are some days (weeks, months, seasons of life . . .) where an hour-long workout just isn't feasible. But that doesn't mean you have to give up altogther!  This week was one of those weeks in our house: got pink eye (me), night wakings (Moose), early morning meeting (me).

It is so easy to give in and give up.  That's why it is important to have some quickie workouts in your exercise arsenal for those times. These aren't workouts that are going to get you "bikini ready" or magically produce a six pack.  But ten or twenty minutes of movement to maintain the hard work you've been doing and give your mood a boost still has value!

So, how to build this arsenal?

Invest in some short (or shorten-able) exercise videos. I'm a self-confessed vidiot (that'd be exercise video junkie), so I turn to some of the workouts in my collection that fit the bill purely from a length perspective.  This week, for example, I pulled out a cardio workout called FIRM: Calorie Explosion that let me select a 19 minute workout of athletic-conditioning-based drills.

I've had to learn, too, that just because a workout is 50 minutes in length, doesn't mean I have to do the whole thing (I realize this is a "duh" for a lot of people, but I'm a mega rule-follower, so this was hard for me).  Workouts divided into "circuits" (a set of exercises - either cardio, weights, or both - done several times through before a new set is introduced) are great for modifying length.  Jillian Michaels: Banish Fat, Boost Metabolism is a great cardio circuit workout I can shorten even when I want some serious cardio.  When I am more in the mood for a fun, dancy workout, Petra Kolber's Bootcamp Boogie is easy to break down into bite-size pieces.

But don't think for a minute that you have to splash a lot of cash to get some quality, shorter workouts.  There are a TON of great, short workouts available for {free} from both blossoming and seasoned exercise instructors. 

This eight-minute "Pick-Me-Up Quickie Workout" from Cassey Ho at Blogilates is my very favorite pinch hit!

The Jillian Michaels workout I mentioned above is also available for {free} in Circuit segments on the video producers' YouTube channel. 

Where do you turn when you only have a few minutes for exercise?  What's your favorite quickie workout? 

Disclosure: this post contains some affiliate links.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Yarn Along: Covered Up by Baby Blankets!

~ Two of my favorite things are knitting and reading, and the evidence of this often shows up in my photographs.  I love seeing what other people are knitting and reading as well. So, what are you knitting or crocheting right now? What are you reading? Take a photo and share it either on your blog or on Flickr. Leave a link below to share your photo with the rest of us! 
~Ginny at Small Things

I finally finished my (somewhat long suffering) Churchmouse baby blanket!  Regardless of how much I may have complained about it being a tedious and boring knit, it turned out so, so beautifully. I am actually thinking of embarking on another at some point . . .

As soon as the Churchmouse was off my #8 needles, I cast on to begin this chevron baby blanket (with a few small modifications by the owner of my LYS) for my hopeful little one.  The plan is to alternate thick stripes (2 balls) of white with thinner stripes (1 ball) of grey.  I am using Debbie Bliss Eco Cotton which, ordinarily, would be out of my price range in the quantity I will need for this blanket (11 balls!), but which I found on sale at my LYS and pounced upon!

Not much in the way of reading again.  I've been working on the final edits to our adoption profile and sifting through endless photos on our current and past smartphones for a few gems to include.

What are you knitting and reading?  Come join the sharing at Small Things

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

(Almost) Perfect Tomato Sauce

Tons of Tomatoes

Tomato season is officially in full swing, and with each week, we are getting more and more from our CSA.  Last week, I will sheepishly admit, we didn't manage to eat them all before they turned.  I felt horrible about throwing them away! 

I set about looking for a good tomato sauce recipe, but with some limitations.  (1) I was too lazy/scared to get the skins off my tomatoes first.  (2) No cold sauces allowed (I learned the hard way in my pre-engagement days that, with Daddy Moose, cold = not suitable for dinner).

The below recipe is the result of my searching and own creative modifying.  The good: it is probably the best-tasting tomato sauce I've made! The bad: it turned out thinner than I would have liked.  My homework for next time is to figure out how to give it some more heft without messing with the flavor.

Summer Tomato Sauce 
(Adapted from this recipe from Food & Wine) 
2 pounds very ripe, room temperature tomatoes (about 4 regular, or 8 Roma, or whatever came in your basket!), chopped 
2 large cloves garlic, minced 
3 tablespoons olive oil 
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon salt 
1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper 
2/3 cup lightly packed fresh basil 
1/2 cup red wine (I used some cheap Cabernet that had been taking up space on my shelf) 
2 cups meat of choice (optional) (I chopped up the leftovers from the rotisserie chicken we had late last week; you could easily add ground beef or sliced Italian sausage, too)

For serving:
Pasta of choice (I used whole wheat penne)
Grated Parmesan cheese (preferably fresh!)

  1. Blend first seven ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth.
  2. Add fresh basil and pulse just once or twice.
  3. Pour into a large saucepan, add wine and meat (if using) and bring to a boil over medium heat.
  4. Cover, reduce heat to simmer for at least 30 minutes.
  5. Serve over pasta and topped with fresh, grated Parmesan cheese.
What is your favorite, easy tomato sauce recipe?  Any suggestions on how to thicken it up?
Photo Credit

Monday, July 23, 2012

Picnic {Mindful Mothering Mondays}

In case you hadn't noticed, life with the Moose has not exactly been a picnic of late.  And, in truth, I've had more than a few moments where I wondered what the heck we were doing starting the process to adopt again when I can't even get through grocery shopping with the Moose without a screaming fit.  He's even taken to spitting when he is mad (gee, thanks, little-girl-in-daycare-class for that gem).

The only thing that keeps me from going crazy is being mindful and receptive of the little moments when the Moose is in just the right mood.  And then it is bliss.  Maybe only 30 seconds of bliss.  But bliss, in any quantity, is most welcome!

And lately, breakfast has been bliss. 

Typically, Moose doesn't have time for breakfast.  Even on non-schooldays, there is invariably some hammering that needs to be done.  Something outside he needs to "check on".   The cat always needs to be tortured pet/tickled/hugged (yes, he really does try to hug the cat).

But recently he's asking for breakfast.  Nothing fancy.  A cereal bar or toast satisfies.  And it must be eaten picnic-style.  

I am happy to oblige!  I get to sit down and sit still with him.  (And my sadly neglected tea towel collection has been delighted to have a purpose, too!) And, at least for a few minutes, life is a picnic.

Happy to be linking up today with Lydia's Mindful Mothering Mondays.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Fitness Friday: Run Like a Girl

When I decided to stop being a couch potato in 1999, the first thing I did was tie on a pair of running shoes and step outside.  And, although I will never be anywhere near what I would describe as "fast", I've continued to enjoy running (or jogging, as some purists will claim that under a certain per-mile speed, it isn't considered true "running").

There's no mistaking, though, that running is hard work!  And running isn't the same for guys and girls.  So today I'm sharing some of my favorite tips and resources for running (I know there are tons out there - this is just my "top five").
  1. I run with gum.  For me, having a dry mouth from all that huffing and puffing is a major distraction.  I don't gnash on it constantly, but it's there to wet my mouth every so often so I can concentrate on other things.  I wish I could credit the source of this idea, but I read it so long ago that I truly can't remember.
  2. Watch your pace.  One of the top reasons I've cut a run short is that I've come out of the gate too quickly and used up all my gusto too quickly.  This is easy to remedy on a treadmill, but not so easy outdoors.  The best method I've read and tried is to inhale for three strides - exhale for two strides, as recommended in The Complete Book of Running for Women.
  3. Fuel and hydrate for your body.  One size doesn't fit all and some folks run better if they hydrate ahead of time, while others find a sloshing stomach annoying or downright painful.  Same story with a snack.  My success formula is having two Honey Stinger chews before I head out and water mixed with ElectroMIX immediately after.  Use some trial and error and find what works for you.  
  4. Find what motivates you.  Whether it's a cute pair of pink running shorts (or skirt!), some rockin' music, the challenge of an organized 5k race on the horizon, or a workout buddy, think about what will get you up and keep you moving.  There are a million articles out there about motivation, but the best idea is the one that works for you (sense a theme here?).   
  5. STRETCH! The #1 reason people give up running - or any fitness routine - is because of pain or injury.  Stretching can help: both immediately after a run (my favorite stretch is the Cow Face Pose from the yoga tradition to stretch out glutes and hips), and a longer restorative stretch on a rest day.  Below is a {free}twenty minute stretching video from fitness personality Jessica Smith that I love to use to get the kinks and soreness out at the end of the week.

Your turn!  Tell me - what are your favorite running tips or products?

Disclaimer: this post contains some affiliate links.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Yarn Along: More Baby Hats

~ Two of my favorite things are knitting and reading, and the evidence of this often shows up in my photographs.  I love seeing what other people are knitting and reading as well. So, what are you knitting or crocheting right now? What are you reading? Take a photo and share it either on your blog or on Flickr. Leave a link below to share your photo with the rest of us! 
~Ginny at Small Things

The baby blanket is still progressing (slowly).  I've taken time away from it this past week, however, to knit up some baby hats for some soon-to-be babies of friends.  On the left is a Vintage Sweet (for which I owe thanks to Kylie, a fellow Yarn Alonger for introducing me to the pattern in her post last week).  On the right is an Adventure Hat with the ribbing edge and beanie shaping options.  Both are knit in organic cotton (Knit Picks Simply Cotton Worsted - Haze Heather and Blue Sky Alpaca Worsted Cotton - Sky, respectively).

As always seems to be the case, when I have a stellar knitting week, I have a somewhat pitiful reading week.  I am trying to finish Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil by next week for a new, local culinary book club.

What are you knitting and reading?  Come join the sharing at Small Things

Disclosure: this post contains some affiliate links.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Yarn Along: Back to the Baby Blanket

~ Two of my favorite things are knitting and reading, and the evidence of this often shows up in my photographs.  I love seeing what other people are knitting and reading as well. So, what are you knitting or crocheting right now? What are you reading? Take a photo and share it either on your blog or on Flickr. Leave a link below to share your photo with the rest of us! 
~ Ginny at Small Things

I haven't been able to muster the energy for the mental gymnastics involved in making another sleeve on the baby sweater, so I returned to the baby blanket I started ages ago (during Lent!).  It makes for great mindless knitting and is really looking beautiful!  The intended recipient was born in early June, so I think, when it is finished, I'll hang on to it to gift for Christmas.

My ulterior motive in finishing this baby blanket is my desire to start another (different pattern) for my own little-one-to-be.  I got some gorgeous Debbie Bliss eco cotton yarn on sale last week that I'm itching to turn into a blanket to match the new nursery (also to-be).  

In the wake of my ill-fated weekend with Moose, I've picked up Playful Parenting (purchased when Moose was about 18 months old but set aside early on when it didn't feel quite applicable to where he was at the time), which I keep hearing/reading such excellent things about.

Come share your knitting and reading adventures with Ginny and friends!

Disclosure: this post contains affiliate links.

Monday, July 9, 2012

One of "Those" Days

Moose and I had one of "those" days on Friday.  A screaming-shrieking-toddler-in-the-middle-of-Target day.  And again on Saturday.  A walk-out-of-a-birthday-party-early day.

About the time the parenting self-doubt was really sinking in, Sunday dawned, and I scooped up Moose and took him to the park.  Half peace offering (because my tone and volume and words weren't as nice as they could have been on Friday and Saturday).  Half selfish repose (because there is much less to worry about when it's him, a slide, and some dirt; so he licked a rock, so what).

And it dawned on me that kids are not unlike the sun.  Yes, we rise when they rise (whether we really want to or not).  But more than that: they're constantly, constantly moving.  Shifting.  Sometimes imperceptibly, and we ease along with them.  Sometimes more dramatically, and we're caught outside in the blistering heat with no sunblock.

And that makes our jobs (as parents) hard.  Really hard.

Sometimes we want solutions, and sometimes we just need to sit on a swing, and watch the shadow shift, and delete (or at least ignore) all the blog posts of other mommies' awesomeness delivered to the inbox.

And remember that all of it - the bad and the good - is moving like the sun, and for better or worse is only here for now.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Fitness Friday: Starting a New Tradition

First of all, HAPPY FRIDAY!

I think my blog profile mentions that I like doing (or at least thinking about) my exercise video collection, but it occurs to me that I don't think I have ever had a fitness-related post. 

The truth is that fitness is a huge part of my life, albeit a part that no one usually sees: I get up between 5:00 and 5:30 most mornings to get my workout in before the Moose wakes up.  The trouble is, by the time the coffee has been made and my day is underway, my workout has faded into the background.  Sort of like I don't ever mention that I shampoo my hair or brush my teeth in the morning: exercising is more of a habit than an event.

But I am very human and still stumble and teeter on the edge of the bandwagon from time to time (often relative to Moose's mercurial sleep habits).  I find it helpful to read about what others are doing - in their pinch-hitting as well as Wonder Woman phases - thus I am starting what I hope will become a weekly tradition on Mommy Marginalia: Fitness Friday.

This week I am finishing up a month with Jillian Michaels's Ripped in 30. The DVD includes four, 30-35 minute workouts, each of which consist of three circuits of Jillian's "3-2-1" method: three minutes of resistance training, two minutes of cardio, and one minute of abdominal conditioning.

There's nothing particularly new or revolutionary about the moves in Ripped in 30, however I find myself returning to it again and again when I want (or need) something shorter but sweattastic.

Some of my favorite aspects of Ripped in 30:
  • Minimal space and equipment required.
  • Jillian's use of compound (upper + lower body worked together) strength training moves.
  • Body-weighted lower body work - some (not all) of the moves use your own body weight (instead of hand weights) as resistance.  I find these types of exercises particularly effective with my pear-shaped body.
  • Completing several weeks of Ripped in 30 prepares me adequately for some of the tougher stuff in my library.  Last year I used it as a springboard to a full P90X rotation.
Some things I don't really love about Ripped in 30:
  • Jillian's banter gets old and annoying when you're doing the video three times a week.
  • Each "Week" does not provide a balanced workout.  I.e. Week 1 has some great shoulder work, but you hardly touch the shoulders again in Week 2.
  • It can be pretty hard on the wrists.  Especially Week 3, which sees you doing several plank variations PLUS floor cardio (mountain climbers, floor-jacks) done from the plank position.
If you want to get your feet wet with another effective, short workout with Jillian, Lionsgate (the producer of Jillian's earlier videos) have recently started releasing full-length workouts on their YouTube channel for FREE! Below is Level 1 of Jillian's 30 Day Shred (the predecessor to Ripped in 30).

Happy Sweating!

Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Yarn Along: Its a Sleeve!

~ Two of my favorite things are knitting and reading, and the evidence of this often shows up in my photographs.  I love seeing what other people are knitting and reading as well. So, what are you knitting or crocheting right now? What are you reading? Take a photo and share it either on your blog or on Flickr. Leave a link below to share your photo with the rest of us! ~
Ginny at Small Things

It may not look like there has been a ton of progress since last week's photo of the baby sweater, but that 2" little sleeve represents my first time picking up stitches and my first ever sleeve!  Yes, if you peer too closely, you'll notice the slight gap at the armpit join, but I am hoping I can tighten it up a bit when I do the finishing.

Meanwhile, I've started Blessed Are the Cheesemakers by Sarah-Kate Lynch and Blue Asylum by Kathy Hepinstall, for separate book clubs.  Both are delightful so far (although very different - modern rural Irish cheese farm vs. Civil War-era Florida insane asylum) and I'm looking forward to reviewing them when I've finished.


For more knitting and reading delight, come join me at Small Things!

Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links.